Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Walk in the Park: Disneyland Edition - Happy 14th Birthday Disney California Adventure!

By Daisy Sparks

The original cost to build Disney California Adventure was $1.4 billion. When the California dream didn’t quite connect with visitors as shown in lackluster attendance, Walt Disney Imagineers went back to the drawing board. In 2007, they announced that they would allocate $1.1 billon over 5 years to reset and re-imagine Disney California Adventure. This past Sunday, Disney California Adventure (DCA) quietly celebrated its 14th birthday. Let's have a look at the park in this week's A Walk in the Park article...

A lot has changed since then. Its logo has changed. Even the name was slightly altered in 2010 when it dropped an apostrophe.

I decided to take my 2001 map of “Disney’s California Adventure” and see how Disney’s 8th Park has evolved to what is now officially named “Disney California Adventure.”

One of the biggest changes was made to the entrance of DCA. In 2001, you were supposed to feel like you were walking through a California postcard. As you passed by the giant letters that spelled out C-A-L-F-O-R-N-I-A, you then made your way through the turnstiles and were surrounded by beautiful tile wall murals and the Golden Gate bridge. You can see what the original entrance and tile murals over on this post at Yesterland. It's a great resource for photos and information.

In 2012, the iconic letters were donated to the California State Fair located in Sacramento. There is a reminder of the tile murals spread out along Buena street. Here are a couple examples that you can find alongside some of the store buildings.

Today, the main gate has been reconfigured with a new entrance. It is modeled after the Pan Pacific Theater that was located in Los Angeles. Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida has a similar entrance, too. When you walk through the turnstiles, the Golden Gate no longer greets you. Now, the Monorail passes through what looks like a bridge that is reminiscent of the Glendale Hyperion Bridge.

In 2001, you made your way down the Golden Gateway to come upon the Sunshine Plaza. You were greeted with a hug sun dial.

Today, after you enter DCA, you stroll down Buena Vista Street. You get the 1920s vibe and get a glimpse of what Walt Disney’s early day in California might have been like. At the end of the street, you come upon a replica of the Carthay Theater which hosted the premiere of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The area now features the Carthy Circle restaurant. There is also a life size bronze statue of Walt and Mickey that is known as known as Storytellers.

According to my 2001 map, there were only 3 lands at DCA: Hollywood Pictures Backlot, Golden State and Paradise Pier.

Since then, “ a bug’s land” and Cars Land have been added. Hollywood Pictures Backlot has been renamed to Hollywood Land. Golden State was broken into Grizzly Peak and Condor Flats. Pacific Wharf now has its own identity separate form Paradise Pier. Buena Vista Street is also a welcome change from the original main walkway formally known as Golden Gateway. The addition of Tower of Terror forever changed the DCA-scape. California Screamin’ has had a facelift while Sun Wheel is now Mickey’s Fun Wheel.

The big show back in 2001 was at the beautiful Hyperion Theater. There was a live show called Disney’s Steps in Time. It highlighted some classic Disney songs sung by Disney characters who sang them. They even included an impressive segment that paid homage to the Mary Poppins Broadway dance number, “Step in Time”. Here are two photos of the Hyperion from 2001 and the last one is from 2015 where you can see the current show on the marquee.

There was the ABC Soap Opera Bistro located in Hollywood Picture Backlot. It was a restaurant where you would be seated in sets that replicated some of your favorite ABC soap operas. Like the way of TV soap operas, it lost its luster. Today the building is home to Disney Junior - Live on Stage!

Monsters Inc, has moved into what was the Superstar Limo attraction. Frozen recently moved into what was formerly Jim Henson’s Muppet-Vision 3D. Finally, Olaf and the citizens of Arendale moved into what looks like a soundstage that originally housed a Disney version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” Frozen even made its way into the Animation building as well. A great addition to both Hollywood Land and Buena Vista Street is the Red Trolley. It’s fun to see it riding up and down the streets.

These next set of photos were taken while I walked through the Pacific Wharf and made my way to Paradise Pier. In 2001, the Mission Tortilla Factory  used to occupy the space that is now the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop. Boudin Bakery recently just went through a makeover but it is an original occupant from 2001.

Where The Little Mermaid - Ariel’s Undersea Adventure now stands used to be a theater that featured a show called “Golden Dreams.” It was narrated by Whoopie Goldberg and was a Disney produced original film that told the story of California. The first photo is a photo I took during Cast Previews while I was on the Sun Wheel.

It was fun to walk DCA on its 14th birthday while comparing notes with my 2001 DCA map in hand.

A lot has changed but I think it is strong evidence to support what Walt Disney always said: “Disneyland will never be complete. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”
- Daisy


Daisy Sparks grew up in Southern California and Disneyland was a regular part of her life. While in college, she started working at Disneyland as a Main Street Merchandise Host. Her "college job" led to 12 adventurous years working with Mickey Mouse. She was a trained Magic Demonstrator, Hat Writer and was even signed off as a Disneyland Monorail Ride Operator. Daisy loved every minute of it while she held various management positions in Merchandise, Business Operations and Attractions. 

Daisy is married to her college sweetheart, David (a former Jungle Cruise Skipper). David solicited Daisy's Duck's help in memorable engagement proposal that took place at Disneyland's Club 33. Daisy left Disneyland in May 2001 to raise her two daughters. She continues to visit the Disneyland Resort multiple times a week as a Guest. Daisy particularly loves the Disneyland heritage because of all of the little details and stories that make it "the happiest place on earth."

You can read more about Daisy's Disneyland adventures over on her personal blog at DisneyDaze .

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